Leader Blues

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

TOP STORY>>Census will start late fall in Cabot

IN SHORT: Cabot is spending money as it seeks to document its growth so it can qualify for more state turnback funds.

Leader staff writer

Sometime before Christmas, more than 150 census workers should be in Cabot, knocking on every door, counting every person and asking personal questions.

But before you brush them off as if they were pushy telemarketers, you should know that answering their questions will help the city cash in on its growing numbers, and that could eventually mean more money for streets and fire and police protection.

The 2000 census showed Cabot had a population of 15,261. Now its estimated population is more than 20,000. But before the city can collect more than $300,000 extra a year from the state for the estimated 5,000 new people who have moved in within the last six years, they have to be counted by the U.S. Census Bureau.

Donna Kingston, program coordinator with the regional census bureau office in Kansas City, Kansas, told The Leader Monday that the census workers (called enumerators) will literally go to every home in the city. No long forms to fill out will arrive in the mail. The enumerators will bring the “short form” with them.

The questions are few and simple, she said. The enumerators will ask how many people live in the home. They also will ask for their ages, dates of birth, race, ethnicity, gender, relationship to the head of the household and whether the home is rented or owned.

They won’t ask whether residents are Amer-ican citizens, she said. So illegal immigrants should not be afraid to answer the questions.

The city mailed a check for $165,550 to the U.S. Census Bureau last week to pay for its part of the special census – making maps and lists of addresses for workers to go to and processing the data they collect. But the city will have to pay an additional $111,000 to hire the workers.

Kingston said a city the size of Cabot, would require at least 135 enumerators, 15 clerks and 15 crew leaders, all hired locally and paid about $9 an hour.

Karen Davis, director of operations for Cabot Mayor Stubby Stumbaugh, said last week that she has not yet started taking applications for the jobs, but City Clerk Marva Verkler has said filling the positions is not difficult.

This will be the city’s second special census. Verkler helped with the first one that was conducted in the early 1990s after officials with Metroplan noticed the growth and told the council the city would be losing money if they didn’t have it done.

Kingston said the Census Bureau would likely start on the Cabot census in a few weeks. Putting together maps and add-resses and training the enumerators takes about three months. The door-to-door counting takes about four weeks and processing the data takes two or three months. Add all the parts and it could be February before the results are available, and city officials aren’t sure when the additional state turn-back money will start coming in.

The city council voted in 2005 to conduct a special census, and the 2006 budget had $200,000 in additional revenue that was expected to come from the state when the census was completed.

But lack of funds to pay for the census has caused a year-long delay in getting it done.

The $200,000 that wasn’t collected was money that was needed for street repairs.